Andrea McGlashan of McGlashans Property Services on relocating US corporate clients

Interview: Ellie Costigan

How did you end up with such a niche client base?
When I first opened the business in 1988, my very first client was American. He’d come over to work for the US government and he told me how difficult they’d found it to relocate. Here in the eighties, you’d see a different agent for each property whereas in America, you’d just go with one agent to see several. I thought, why can’t we do that? We found that every American we made happy would recommend us to their friends. I find Americans very loyal. They also love the fact that we’re a family business and can offer a more personal service. We answer the phone at all hours—they can always get hold of us.

What defines your US client base?
In the beginning it was government clientele—US embassy, US navy, US coastguard—then it grew into corporate people too. They have high expectations, especially the ones from New York. In return for an excellent service, they are eternally grateful.

What are the typical requirements?
They love anything period and English: high ceilings, fireplaces, cornices—a characterful property. We are blessed in Marylebone to have so many of them. They also want lots of space. In the States, they’re used to having so much space and storage. I remember the first time I went to America and saw a walk-in shower and walk-in wardrobe, I thought, now I understand my clients. Showers are so important—it’s the first thing they test. They also often ask, “Do you have air conditioning?” We joke and say, “Yes, we’ve got windows; we just open them.”

You offer furniture rental. Tell us about that.
We offer bespoke, high end furniture rental packages. Very few people ship their furniture now—often if they do, when they see our properties in London and how beautifully furnished they are, they wish they hadn’t. The thing is, our furniture goes with the style of our properties. And it’s exciting to have a new home and new furniture. We usually arrange for them to ship their linens ahead and our housekeepers will go round and make up all the beds. They can get off the plane, go straight to their accommodation and it’s completely ready for them.

What do you think attracts US clients to the area?
It really does depend where people have relocated from. If they’ve lived in the city, they want to live ‘downtown’. They can’t get more downtown than Marylebone. They’ve got Oxford Street on their doorstep, Regent’s Park, and all the restaurants. There’s such a mix of people here and it’s still a very English neighbourhood. It’s like being in a village, and I think they find the relocation easier because they feel part of our community. Marylebone is a really special place to live.

Does the US market fluctuate?
At the moment, they’ve got a brilliant exchange rate—I’ve never known the dollar so strong. Americans will always come to London, and Brexit won’t affect that—it’s just a question of how many come here. Once Brexit happens, some of the big banks are going to have to establish headquarters in other European cities, but a couple of our American clients have indicated that they would still live in London and commute. When you’re used to the size of America, flying a few hours to Germany is nothing. What they’re concerned with is that their families are happy, and for most Americans, if they’re given the choice in Europe of where to live, London would be top of their list—it’s English-speaking, and it’s a beautiful city.